writing-habits

Harmful Habits to Avoid When Writing

They say you should write like you speak, which is mostly true. But when you’re in a creative flow and writing just seems to come naturally, it’s easy to overlook mistakes and fall back into a safety net of repetition. You might be writing just like you speak, but it’s important to remember to avoid using the same exact words and phrases in each and every one of your written pieces. There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with creative writing, but if you edit with a careful eye, your writing can be that much more impactful.

There’s some truth to the quote “write drunk and edit sober.”

Run-on Paragraphs

We are taught at an early age how unprofessional and awkward sounding run-on sentences can be. In an attempt to avoid these however, many writers end up creating run-on paragraphs. Most readers want clear, concise sentences that are easy to read. A huge paragraph without breaks looks like a giant concoction of information that makes people zone out.

Break up your paragraphs depending on where subjects shift. Varying lines of words are much more pleasing to the human eye, and will keep your readers’ attentions.

Long-winded Introductions

Introductions are obviously key parts of stories to lay ground for what’s to come, whether they are fiction, nonfiction, or news stories. However, a lot of writers tend to ramble with this much creative freedom. I suggest sticking to just 4 or 5 sentences when writing an introduction rather than incorporating a life story that you think a few readers might enjoy. In most cases, they’re here to read the piece of content for what it is, and nothing more.

Exclamation Points

I understand these are basic punctuation marks that are used pretty frequently, but a surefire way to lose credibility in your story is to use too many exclamation points. Personally, I think even one is too many. Unless you are quoting somebody or the situation really calls for it, try to avoid using an exclamation point at all costs. It almost forces the reader to hear the sentence in a surprised, amateurish tone. It’s a step away from using all caps, something we can all agree should never be done (unless on Twitter).

Vagueness

Reading vague sentences that don’t seem to get to the point can be incredibly frustrating for readers. The longer it takes you to clearly explain the main point of your sentence, paragraph, or entire story, the less interested your audience will be. Keep in mind that people’s attention spans are typically very short. If it takes 100 words or more for them to figure out just what you’re trying to say, readers are going to skim your writing.

Though I have just listed a few of many possible writing mistakes, many different errors can be umbrellaed under these considerations. Pay attention to your writing before you hit that publish button. Read it out loud. It’s always better to catch these things yourself, before the rest of the world does.

writers-and-smartphones

Why Writers Should Ditch Their Smartphones (Occasionally)

Smartphone addiction is a real and prevalent issue among many people today, myself included. In fact, of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, many report feeling panicked and anxious when misplacing their mobile devices. This desperation to be connected at all times can be especially troubling for writers despite the vastness of the internet, and the overwhelming amount of information available at our fingertips.

It’s easy to get lost in your phone or tablet when browsing the web, reading online articles, and indulging in the endless world of social media. For many people, “taking a break” means surfing the internet and reading funny or interesting articles rather than checking their emails. However, you are still on your smartphone (or tablet) while doing this. Occupying your mind via technology at all times can be detrimental to your creative process, and thus your creative writing.

Today, it’s much easier to pick up your phone and go through the many applications you’ve downloaded when you become bored. By doing this, you are effectively preventing your mind from wandering, which is an essential activity for creative writers. A majority of writers credit their stories and ideas simply from their imaginations; something that can only be done when the mind is able to wander and reflect on the day, and the interactions that occurred throughout.

Have you noticed unique or eclectic ideas coming to mind more often while you are driving or in the shower? While you may not exactly be bored in these situations, your brain is receiving little stimulation, and thus begins to wander and reflect. Shoving your face into a smartphone when you are overcome with boredom does stimulate your brain, but in a way that prevents creative thought. A great way to conquer this is by forcing yourself to simply be bored. This may seem, well, boring, but make your smartphone technology unaccessible for a certain period of time, and get back to your roots of boredom. This can force you to think of a more creative outcome rather than simply grabbing the nearest mobile device or tablet.

What did you do as a child when you were bored before smart technology existed? Many people might answer playing outside, or just letting their mind wander in relaxing locations. Little did we know it, but these actions sparked our imaginations and creativity, and, depending on how long you’ve been writing, we may have written these experiences down in journals.

If you’re truly motivated to get some writing done, but know that your addiction is bad, there is software that can help you. Here are some apps that do this best, allowing you to free your mind and expand your creativity. Boredom is a small price to pay for productivity.

 
Pay attention to times in which you become bored while writing. If you aren’t inspired during a certain scene or piece of dialogue, there’s a good possibility your writers will feel that lack of inspiration. It’s times like this where most people will immediately feel compelled to grab their phones and spend hours on social media. Instead, study that specific scene and find out what it is that is lacking. It may be just one sentence throwing off the entire conversation. The more you analyze and think about your writing, the happier you’ll be with it through editing; something texting and checking emails cannot do.

twitter

How Twitter Can Improve Your Writing Skills

twitter-writing

The title of this blog alone may seem like a contradiction given the amount of Twitter users that seem to have a tenuous grasp on the English language, but hear me out. As one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, Twitter allows anyone and everyone to voice their opinions for the world to hear, which isn’t always a good thing. However, utilizing everything this site has to offer can actually improve your writing skills.

First, and perhaps most obviously, tweeting allows you to practice brevity. Because of that fact that you are only given 140 characters to tell everyone how you feel about President Trump or what your thoughts were on last night’s game, you are forced to cram all of these ruminations into one concise tweet. This is where your editing skills come into play. Trim the unnecessary details, and include only what you want your audience to read and understand; a skill applied to creative writing every day.

Second, many people seem to forget the networking possibilities that come with communicating on a platform used by hundreds of millions of people every day. By intelligently using hashtags to hone in on who you want seeing your tweets, you can reach users in countries on the other side of the planet, and share a few thoughts if you feel so inclined. Get your followers, as well as people within your industry, to engage with you. Ask questions in your tweets for feedback or starting discussions, and respond as often as you can to show your audience that you care about their opinions, and actually want to hear back from them.

Going off the notion of practicing brevity, the more you tweet, the better you’ll get at it. That is to say you will quickly learn what works best in the Twitter universe in terms of engagement. For example, strong, intelligently-worded one-liners can immediately grab an avid Twitter user’s attention. Most people on this platform don’t want to read paragraphs of information. Cater to the masses. Whether you incorporate humor, sorrow, or shock, someone is bound to react to what you put out there so long as it is brief and impactful.

Another pretty obvious advantage that comes with using Twitter is marketing your already-written content. Grab a quote or two out of your latest blog or novel, and link back to your website. Before you do this however, make sure you audience actually wants to read it. Incorporate some emotion. Sounding robotic on social media is a great way to lose followers. Tell people why you’ve written this piece and why you think they’d like it.

Experimentation is yet another beautiful part of Twitter for writers. If you tend to stick to one genre when writing, try tweeting a few things ranging in genres to see how your audience responds. Because of the conciseness of tweets, very few people are going to judge what you put out there. Get creative. Try something comedic if you commonly write dramatic content, or write a two-sentence horror story if you tend to do the opposite. Your opportunities are endless.

journalism-and-writing

The Connection Between Journalism and Creative Writing

For journalists immersed in a world of information regarding the latest news, updates, and regular goings-on around the world, the quality with which they write may not seem like the most important part of their jobs. While it does carry a great deal of weight in getting the point across accurately and clearly, few journalists may realize just how beneficial their jobs are when it comes to creative writing.

Because of the style of writing required in journalism, those covering breaking news stories must get information across quickly and in a tone that is easy to read. Without knowing it, they are transforming their writing abilities, and when those abilities are applied to creative writing, they may find that it comes easy to them on their first try.

One of the most obvious aspects of journalism is the need to conduct research. Someone who reports the news is morally obligated to tell the truth, and back that truth up with factual statements and sources. Stating something groundbreaking is almost always going to be researched by readers (though that may be wishful thinking), so glossing over certain aspects of the story can result in a loss of audience. The same can be said when writing a story. Pay attention to the little things, and be sure to connect all the dots. With a background in fact checking, writers with journalism experience can create a much more compelling story with extreme detail.

Interviewing is a large part of a journalist’s career. This constant face-to-face interaction allows one to develop a specific dialogue that can be gradually improved over time. You are also given the opportunity to listen to other people speak, providing you with different perspectives on tone of voice, vocabulary, and syntax. Putting all of this down on a piece of paper then becomes second nature. You suddenly have several ways to word a sentence, which can be overwhelming, but ultimately rewarding.

The concept of deadlines, though stressful, can create a subconscious will of determination when writing in your free time. Journalists all know that they must live and die by deadlines if they are to keep their jobs. This sense of discipline can be a magical thing when writing stories, because I’m sure we are all aware of the frustrations of being easily distracted, and losing our train of thought. The overwhelming feeling of needing to finish a story on time can help, so long as you’re able to pace yourself, and not rush.

Though some journalists may not be so inclined as to write creatively in their spare time, should they choose to do so, they may be surprised as to how easily it comes to them. The skills needed in the world of journalism can greatly enhance one’s ability to write compelling stories, and engage his or her readers on a better level than a writer with little or no experience dealing with the stress and constant action seen in an office setting.

creative-genius

How to Spark Your Creative Genius

Losing your sense of creativity or simply failing to find the inspiration needed to to create the best work possible is something all writers face. It can be frustrating and debilitating, which can lead to a forced piece of written material lacking in passion. If you as a writer are struggling to get in touch with your inner creative genius, just know that everyone goes through the same thing, even the best of us. Consider any of the following strategies to wake that sense of imagination and originality.

Understand and Practice Monotony

This seems entirely counterintuitive, but taking part in an activity, or not, that is mundane and downright boring can lead to a wandering mind. A study published on Sage Journals stated that this mindlessness and attempt to subconsciously entertain one’s self can actually promote creative thinking. Some monotonous tasks you could take part in include cleaning your house or work area, counting the number of items on your desk, or simply staring at a wall! Don’t get too excited.

Void Yourself of Distractions

All writers seek to eliminate distraction to some extent, so this is nothing new, but it can do wonders for your creativity. Depending on the area in which you prefer to write, make sure any televisions are off, your phone is on silent, and you are left with nothing but your thoughts. This free-thinking mindset will spark thoughts that you may not have been able to access with distractions or background noise.

Fill the Room With Distractions

I know what I said. While eliminating all possible distractions is a good way of promoting creativity, conversely, distracting yourself with a variety of activities can have the same effect. When you are deeply focused on a single task, your brain effectively ignores all other stimuli around you, which can limit your mindset to that one specific project. Actually delving into the distractions around you can spark ideas for a number of different solutions to one problem. Read a magazine, listen to music, or watch a brief amount of television to get the creative juices flowing.

Relax

Sometimes this mental lapse in creativity can be caused by overexertion of the brain and a forced attempt to think of something new, which can have adverse effects. When this is the case, simply walk away from your computer, notepad, typewriter, or whatever medium you are utilizing to write, and clear your mind. Meditate, take a nap, talk a walk outside, or even make a drink to destress and rejuvenate your creative genius. You’ll come back to your written work with a refreshed sense of inspiration, which could lead to ideas that were previously blocked by mental overexertion.

Keep Pounding Away

 
The best advice that was ever given to me was just to keep writing, no matter how inspired or uninspired you feel at the moment. This is important to remember because writing is like any other activity, in that in order to get better, you just need to keep practicing. Waiting on the “aha” moment, will cause you to stall out, and procrastinate on your writing. Sometimes the best ideas come from just sitting your butt in a chair, and getting it done.

short-story-writing

How to Write a Better Short Story

No matter if you are writing a short story for an assignment or writing for the sake of writing, it is important that you follow certain guidelines to ensure you produce your best work possible. Although this may seem more arduous than simply sitting down and typing up a 3,500-word story, this effort will be worth it in the end, as it will enhance your skills and prepare you for your next project. Here are several methods you should adopt before you even start writing:

Identify the plot

I know, too obvious, right? While this may seem like a common sense first step, it is important to remember that a plot is not simply a series of events that take place during the course of your story. Rather, a plot consists of many motives — both yours and your characters’ — that create obstacles, conflict and, eventually, a climax. Once you identify the heart of your story and what you want it to convey, make sure to stick to your core message — otherwise, you will risk over-stuffing your plot with meaningless details. Write it on your forehead if you have to!

Develop your characters

It is difficult to write out a story when you are unsure of who you are writing about. In fact, Stephen King believes that good characters will write their own story. Take the time to develop your characters by establishing key factors about their appearances, personalities, family histories, and more. These elements could include a character’s hair color, eye color, ethnic background, nervous habits, interests, hobbies, and so on. Keep in mind, however, that you should always know more about your character than you state in your story — again, because these details are meaningless in the grand scheme of your plot.

Write a strong first paragraph

Now that you have established what and who you are writing about, it is time to get to the actual writing portion of this process. When crafting any piece, it is important that you set the tone of the story and catch readers’ attention in the very first line. Although it may sound daunting at first, this task should be easier to accomplish if you have followed the previous steps. Just remember the message you are trying to convey and avoid constructing a wordy introduction — in this case, less is certainly more.

Read, read, and read some more

Successful writers very rarely avoid reading others’ work. Just like any other skill, enhancing your writing abilities takes time. Therefore, it would greatly benefit any aspiring writer to learn from others by reading the works of great authors, taking note of what they did correctly (and even incorrectly) and applying those principles to your own work. Using successful authors as your personal mentors will not only provide you with more ideas for future projects, but can enhance your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary as well.

writing-prompts

The Best Websites for Writing Prompts

Stop me if you’ve heard it before, but you should be encouraged that every writer experiences writer’s block at one time or another. Whether you’re stuck in the middle of a work in progress or you just can’t seem to get a story off the ground, the block can be the most frustrating thing in a writer’s life. Even the greats like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling admit that they can run into these common issues. How do we break through and get the keyboard tapping again?

Enter the wide world of writer’s prompts. Prompts are ideas or situations meant to jog your mind and jump-start the creative process to help you feel the flow again. The internet is a veritable treasure trove of such prompts. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. WritingPrompts.com

As the name suggests, WritingPrompts.com offers daily prompts for writers of all genres. Fresh prompts are offered up daily, but you can access past prompts for additional exercise.

  1. Writer’s Digest

Writer’s Digest is an excellent resource for writers, offering new writing prompts every week. Writers share their creations with each other through the comment section and provide helpful tips and feedback.

  1. Writing Prompts That Don’t Suck

This Tumblr gem offers unique and out-of-the-box prompts for writers looking to do something a little different. The opportunity to share work and push the creativity envelope makes this Tumblr a great resource.

  1. Writer Igniter

The DIYMFA Writer Igniter app is a fun way to get the juices flowing. The Writer Igniter shuffles through various main characters, settings, situations, and props until it lands on a unique combination. You use that combination to jump start a new story. The possibilities are truly endless.

  1. ThinkWritten

This is a list of 365 simple creative writing prompts. You could do one every day to keep your skills sharp.

  1. /r/WritingPrompts

Trust Reddit to come up with some real prompt gems. For example: “You can feel it every time you die in another dimension. Normally it’s infrequent but today you are hit with billions of deaths at once. Something’s coming, and it just killed you in almost every other plane of existence.” Members post their results and feedback, and the creations are truly imaginative.

  1. Writing Forward

Writing Forward has as great list of 25 original prompts, as well as tips, exercises, and resources for writers to improve their skills and marketing.

  1. OneWord.com

OneWord.com gives you 60 seconds to write about — you guessed it — one word generated by the website. When 60 seconds is up, you have the option to post your results to the OneWord website and see what others came up with.

Leonard David Raymundo

Tips for the Inexperienced Writer

The art of writing, regardless of setting, can be seen as a means of expressing yourself, manifesting your emotions on a piece of paper or computer screen, or just simply communicating with another. However, for those who possess less than average writing skills, achieving any of those can be unnecessarily difficult. Improving this can be tricky if you don’t know where to start. Which is why I’ve included a number of strategies you can use to enhance your writing abilities on all platforms, that I’ve found to be successful.

Write with your hands

Almost everyone today would consider the terms ‘writing’ and ‘typing’ synonymous. Given the various forms of technology at our fingertips, that is true to some extent. If your daily writing activities are via a keyboard 100% of the time and you are failing to see any improvement, give handwritten pieces a try. Practicing your handwriting has been linked to improved cognitive ability, and can allow you to look at the written piece from a different perspective. It can keep your mind active, and promote thoughtfulness within you that not have been able to tap into prior. For myself-I have found that writing by hand, while more “difficult”, produces more creative and thoughtful work.

Recognize your mistakes

Make note of the most common errors you yourself make when writing. Do you struggle with spelling, grammar, or overused expressions? Pay attention to what you tend to write most. This can provide insight into any mistakes you are making on a consistent basis. When typing, the technological phenom that is autocorrect is another great tool to help point out your mistakes.

But the best thing you can do is simply read your writing out loud. Does it sound disjointed? Awkward? Doesn’t make sense? If any of these things are true, you’ll want to rewrite it until it sounds natural when read aloud.

Utilize resources

There are countless websites online that are greatly beneficial to writers. Whether you need a thesaurus to expand your vocabulary, or a tool to help you figure out which words in your title should be capitalized, the internet has it all. In addition to helping you improve your writing, you are likely to learn new words or phrases that you can then incorporate, breaking up your style even more.

Organize ideas beforehand

If your writing tends to be scattered and unorganized, writing down your thoughts before you start working on the actual piece can help tremendously. Create a chronological storyboard that lays out every part of your intended piece, adding specific details in bullets underneath. This isn’t to say that spontaneous writing is bad, rather organizing your thoughts can be helpful, and easier for those that wish to improve their basic writing skills.

Learn from others

All the greats in writing learned from someone. Developing your writing skills takes time, and making note of what accomplished writers put together can help. Read the works of famous authors, or even a friend or family member who you know possesses great writing skills. This can enhance your vocabulary, your grammar, and even spark ideas for future pieces.

 
My personal favorite is Stephen King, and his book: “On Writing”, which has been an inspiration to my writing career. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

How to Receive Proper Feedback

Hearing criticism or feedback is tough to hear, especially for anyone in the creative arts such as writing. But one of the best ways to improve as a writer is receiving and learning from the feedback of others. Whether they are casual readers or fellow writers, criticism, praise, or suggestions can all help you learn from your mistakes and progress into a better writer. However, the trick is actually getting that feedback.

Attracting readers is absolutely necessary if you wish to better your writing. There may be lines you’ve written that seem comparable to those of Hemingway in your mind, which then suddenly appear to be poorly constructed the next day. As many would believe, you are your own worst critic, so it’s hard to tell which is the truth.

What?

Asking for feedback is a two-way street. Simply asking, “Can you review this?” is a vague questions that leaves the door open for even vaguer answers. Instead, ask a few specific questions to give the reader an idea of what you’re looking for in his or her feedback, and a direction in which he or she can provide meaningful answers. After asking these questions, refrain from trying to explain certain parts of your work. Let readers form their own opinions. Consider the fact that you won’t be able to explain these possibly confusing parts to people that may read your work halfway around the world. The piece should speak for itself.

Why?

The first step in receiving feedback is accepting that you need it. Before revealing your creative work to the world, make sure you have an open mind. It will be criticized, but do not let that deter you from continuing. Rather, learn from it. Constructive criticism is not a personal attack on your work. The world’s most successful writers, authors, and poets wouldn’t be at their respective levels of fame without having their works criticized, and then taking away meaningful lessons from those critiques and suggestions.

When?

Proofread. There is perhaps no greater frustration than having a simple grammatical error pointed out by a reader that you missed before submitting your work. In order to avoid this frustration, read over your work before submitting it to those who’ve offered to review it. A story, article, or poem that is riddled with small errors immediately comes off as unprofessional, and will most likely be dismissed by its readers. You want to display your work with confidence. Only when you feel that it is as its best possible state should you ask for feedback on it.

Who?

The audience you ask to review your piece is just as important as the ‘when’ and ‘why’. Ideally, you’ll want to ask fellow writers or avid readers that understand the difference between a masterpiece and a poorly written diary entry. Not only do they know what they’re talking about, but they will most likely be upfront and honest in their answers. Asking family members or significant others will almost always yield sympathetic answers. Though flattering, they are not often constructive.

 
As a writer, I believe that feedback is necessarily to fuel your career and grow your skills. However, make sure it is constructive, and process it in a way that helps you learn. You will not always hear what you want to hear, but that is no reason to get too emotional, or attached to it. Show appreciation for those offering to review your work, and listen to what they have to say. Learning from your mistakes is what will eventually allow you to develop your abilities in the writing world.

oliver-thomas-klein-207908

The Importance of Writing in Business

In the modern day of social media and technology, proper writing skills have taken a bit of a backseat. And in the business world, possessing a basic set of writing skills is crucial to your success. Whether you’re creating proposals for clients, memos to members of management, or simply emailing a colleague, writing skills are vital in order to present professionalism.

Those who have extremely busy agendas may see improving their writing skills as unnecessary, or a tedious task that only adds to their workload. However, constructing engaging, intelligent sentences is a must for effective communication, separating yourself from others, and even attracting business. Many business owners and their employees have great ideas. Those ideas won’t come alive however, if you can’t persuasively communicate them.

The most obvious consideration when drafting any form of writing is thinking before doing so, and diligently proofreading it to ensure there are no errors, and your message is clearly displayed. A bad habit people tend to make is writing as they’re thinking, creating a convoluted, repetitive mess of words. It’s okay to write in your tone, however rereading your message is critical to ensure what you’ve written is easily readable.

Know your targeted audience. As I have discussed in a previous blog, the way you go about wording certain sentences or phrasings should differ depending on the recipient. For example, drafting an email to a coworker would most likely have a much more laid back tone than one sent to your manager. Think about what you want your audience to feel or think after receiving your message, but be direct.

Bryan Garner, author of The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, states, “One of the great diseases of business writing is postponing the message to the middle part of the writing.” Practice brevity, and try to keep your messages (depending on the context) to no more than 200 words. As stated in Harvard Business Review’s piece by Carolyn O’Hara, “cut the fat.” Including unnecessary words in your writings may lead to readers tuning out. Avoid using complex phrases when one or two words will convey the same message.

 
You may learn the hard way that writing can play a large role in how you present yourself. If you happen to send an email with a typo, or submit a memo longer than what most people are willing to read, learn from these mistakes. Though it is a cliche saying, practice makes perfect. Read what your peers write, and study the good and bad in each. You’ll begin to develop a professional, clear voice in your style of writing that both coworkers and managers will most likely notice.

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